How to Recover from a Marathon

With the Virgin London Marathon just a couple of weeks away I thought now would be a good time to share with you my top tips for marathon recovery. Hopefully you’ve already learned some tricks for recovering from a long run along with your training but, for me, nothing compared to that post-marathon feeling so having a few extra ideas now might come in handy!

Post Marathon Recovery Tips

Brighton Marathon for the Stroke Association

Immediately Post-Race

Congratulate yourself – regardless of how the race went, you should feel very proud of yourself. You have just done what billions of people across the world will never do. Well done!

Slow to a walk – don’t just stop moving altogether, as tempting as this may be! You’ve just run 26.2 miles, and your body is probably going to hate you for it! But keeping on moving (for around 10-15 mins) will help prevent post-race collapse, as well as short term recovery of your muscles. If you really want to, then have a gentle stretch. Personally, I found stretching a bit too much for me after the marathon, so stuck to loosening my muscles off by gentle walking – your muscle fibres will already be damaged so you want to be easy on them!

Rehydrate – your body will likely have lost a lot of fluid during the marathon and it’s important to start replacing this soon after finishing. I’m not saying guzzle litres of water, but sip. You will probably be handed a cup or bottle of water – accept it graciously, you’ll need it. I personally went on the hunt for a recovery drink, like Lucozade Sport, as I felt I needed the sugar. The carbohydrate will help to replenish your drained muscle stores, and the electrolytes will be useful for preventing cramp too.

Sit down – ok, now you can sit down! By now your body should have come back down to its steady state and you can let it do what it’s telling you it wants to do – whether this is sitting or laying, find a place and do it, preferably somewhere with shade. Stay with friends if possible, just in case you’ve sat down too soon and your blood pressure drops.

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30-60 Minutes Post-Race

Refuel – within an hour or so of finishing you’ll probably want to start getting some food into you. If you have a charity area to go to then they will likely have snacks available. Eat whatever takes your fancy – some people struggle to feel hungry after a hard run, so if there’s only one thing you think you can stomach then find it and have it. Or you may find yourself the opposite and grabbing any food in sight – that’s fine! Have a decent sized snack at this point, and again in another hour or so.

Recovery massage – this is another benefit of the charity areas, there are often groups of volunteers providing post-race massage, but there may also be a tent near the finish line for non-charity runners to get a massage too. This can be really soothing after a race, and is thought to help kick-start the recovery process. The massage you’ll get at this stage is just a gentle rubdown, but if your massage therapist does get a little too vigorous be sure to tell them and they should ease off. If it still hurts, you may have to ask them to stop.

Get changed – if you can, just putting on some fresh clothes (even if you can’t have a shower yet) can make you feel more human. I put on a comfy pair of jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt after my marathon and it made me feel a million times better. The biggest difference though, is changing your shoes. My feet ached like mad for the last couple of miles of my race, and putting on a pair of Converse felt like heaven. I recently acquired a pair of Oofos Original Thong*, and I swear, if I was to run a marathon again I’d go for these! They support your foot into a really stretched out position to aid recovery and are super-comfy.

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3-4 Hours Post-Race

Eat… again – (see my priorities here??) by now you should be aiming to have a full meal. High carbohydrate meals are still best to try and help your body recover, as well as protein for muscle repair. Realistically, anything goes – if you want a hamburger and chips, have it. All I wanted after my marathon was a pizza, and I finally got my wish around 5 hours after finishing… followed by an ice cream sundae!

Wear compression tights (and/or socks) – I wore compression tights to bed the night after my marathon! Compression tights help to reduce the chances of cramp and can help to reduce recovery time, as well as reducing the amount of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) you experience. The evidence is mostly inconclusive, but it won’t hurt to wear them and if they do help, then all the better! These JAGGAD ones from Active in Style are lush, though full length may be better for muscle recovery.

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5-7 Hours Post-Race

Have a bath – I was lucky to have a bath ready and waiting for me when I got home from the race, complete with a glass of bubbly (he did good!). Some people swear by ice baths immediately after a long run, but for me they were never worth it! I just love a hot bath a few hours later. Try Epsom salts, which are supposed to help reduce inflammation and also help your muscles recover by restoring electrolyte levels. These ones from Westlab (available from Boots*) also contain essential oils for a spa feel and relaxing scent.

Sleep! – As your body cycles through the stages of sleep, hormones are released that stimulate tissue growth and muscle repair. Sure, stay up celebrating as long as you like, but soon enough your body will naturally want to sleep so let it. You will allow the healing and recovery process to really kick off at this stage, and that’s only going to help you get back to your routine sooner.

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Final Thoughts

So those are my top tips for post-marathon recovery. Ultimately, everyone is different, so what works for some people might not work for others – there is no right or wrong way to recover. The most important thing is to keep safe, stick with friends and family and enjoy your achievement!

Do you have anything to add? Comment below!

Photos taken using my Olympus PEN E-PL7* and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 Lens*

Disclaimer: I received my Oofos sandals and Westlab bath salts for free. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by items gifted to me. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on these and other matters, see my Disclosure page.

2 Comments

  1. Ian Parsons
    14th April 2016 / 9:52 am

    All good advice. A good stretch afterwards (within 5 minutes of finishing) worked for me and I would say do stretching before going out into the public area at London as it is just too crowded. SIS Rego works for me after each marathon and half marathon I have done but drink this within 30 minutes of finishing. Cold/Ice baths work on the day or the following day and I found it was better to have an Epsom Salt bath two or three days afterwards with a gentle stretch as your muscles are warm.

    • Georgina Spenceley
      14th April 2016 / 3:23 pm

      Thanks Ian! Great to hear your tips!

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